Lot 620 View Catalog
Photo-Muhammed Ali vs. Sonny Liston, autographed. Muhammad Ali stands over Sonny Liston in the ring, May 25, 1965. The black/white version of the most famous sports photo ever. Autographed in silver by Muhammad Ali
Provenance: Miki and James J. Mangan, III of Fairfield, Connecticut
Photo Size: H. 8" x L. 9.75"
Frame Size: H. 12" x L. 15"
Weight: 1lb 14oz
At the time of the first Liston-Ali fight on February 25, 1964, Sonny Liston was the world heavyweight champion, having beaten Floyd Patterson by a first round knockout in September 1962. With an impressive knockout record to that point, Liston was a fighter many other heavyweights were reluctant to meet in the ring. Henry Cooper said that if Cassius Clay (Ali's name at the time) won, he was interested in a title fight, but if Liston won, he was not going to get in the ring with him. Cooper's manager Jim Wicks said, "We don't even want to meet Liston walking down the same street." Liston was an ex-con with ties to organized crime whose ominous, glowering demeanor was so central to his image that Esquire Magazine caused a controversy by posing him in a Santa Claus hat for its December 1963 cover.
Cassius Clay, on the other hand, was a glib, fast-talking 22-year-old challenger who enjoyed the spotlight. Known as "The Louisville Lip", he had won the light-heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics and had great hand and foot speed—not to mention a limitless supply of braggadocio and confidence. Nevertheless, Clay had been knocked down by journeyman Sonny Banks early in his career and—more seriously—was almost knocked out by the cut-prone converted southpaw Henry Cooper. Although Clay rallied to win, it seemed to show he would be vulnerable to Liston's formidable left hook.
The brash Clay was not liked by most reporters, and his chances were widely dismissed. Lester Bromberg's forecast in the New York World-Telegram was typical, predicting "It will last almost the entire first round." The Los Angeles Times' Jim Murray observed, "The only thing at which Clay can beat Liston is reading the dictionary," adding that the faceoff between the two unlikeable athletes would be "the most popular fight since Hitler and Stalin—180 million Americans rooting for a double knockout." The New York Times' regular boxing writer Joe Nichols declined to cover the fight, assuming it would be a mismatch. By fight time, Clay was a seven to one betting underdog. Of the 46 sportswriters at ringside, 43 had picked Sonny Liston to win by knockout.